Jellystone Park

Guest cabins at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Bostic, North Carolina, last month. Interest in camping soared in the pandemic, and now, as social-distancing restrictions are winding down, the sector is showing signs that it may maintain its popularity. (Mike Belleme / The New York Times)

Some families plan annual summer trips in a quest to eventually visit every major-league ballpark across America. Over the past two years, Patty Lin and her family have taken up a similar pursuit: campgrounds, according to The New York Times.

Lin, her husband and two sons had never gone camping together before the pandemic. But after their first experience in August 2020, they purchased an RV and became frequent visitors at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, collecting tie-dye shirts and snapshots with Yogi Bear and friends at various locations.

Lin said her family hoped to visit a new campground each summer, although they may not get to them all — there are currently 83 Jellystone Parks in North America, with plans for more locations concentrated west of the Mississippi River.

“It’s time where we can come together as a family,” Lin said. “We don’t see this ending anytime soon.”

As pandemic restrictions wind down, camping is showing signs that it may maintain its popularity even as many Americans become more comfortable with indoor activities.

The global market for camping and caravanning is expected to grow 6.6% from 2020 to 2025, according to Research and Markets. And the number of RVs shipped in 2021 jumped a record 39% from the previous year, according to a report from StorageCafe, a unit of the real estate software company Yardi Systems.

To capitalize on that increased interest, national campground companies like Kampgrounds of America and Northgate Resorts, which owns several Jellystone locations, are moving beyond triangular tents pitched on bumpy dirt patches. They’re adding accommodations akin to those found at resorts, and are tacking on theme-park attractions like zip lines and water slides.

“During the pandemic, I think people came and understood what camping was in the 21st century,” said Robert Schutter Jr., president of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, a franchise system owned by Sun Communities, a real estate investment trust. “It wasn’t looked at being this roughened type of scenario. It was an offering with very strong comforts of home while you still were able to enjoy the outdoors with your family.”

The trend toward adding eye-catching amenities faces pushback from fans of traditional camping, who favor “roughing it” over “glamping,” but camping companies are moving ahead undeterred.

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